Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Shannon Snow Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/17/2022
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  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.


Happy Monday! Hope you've all had a fantastic July 4th holiday weekend and a good start to summer. Before I get to my fantastic guest post, I have a bit of news to pass on.

In celebration of Pride Month, Penguin Young Readers and Listening Library are teaming up to provide resources for LGBTQ teens, parents, teachers, and librarians. Resources include book recommendations and audiobooks highlighting LGBTQ issues and highlighting good role models. You can find more information at www.readproudlistenproud.com.

Today I'm excited to have debut YA author Julia Durango here to share about her science fiction story LEVELLER. It sounds like an exciting book set in part in a virtual world. Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

Now here's Julia!

            If you haven’t seen the new Pixar-Disney film Inside Out yet, go see it. Right now! I’ll wait.
            There. Wasn’t that a great movie?  So clever. So sweet. Bing Bong Forever! But my favorite part

by far was the visual representation of the brain and how the different parts of it – imagination, memory, subconscious, emotions, thoughts – work together (or fight each other) to determine how we engage with the world. It also reminded me of what my writer friends and I often refer to as “writer brain,” a separate place in our heads that functions both as repository and think tank for every book we write (and many more we won’t write).
            If I were to depict “writer brain” as a room or location a la Inside Out, I’d show you a messy attic with a big telescope in the window. File drawers, old trunks, wardrobes, map stands, and costumed mannequins cover the floor. Little scraps of paper, photographs, and post-it notes litter every surface. A secret passage behind the bookcase leads directly to the heart. Sometimes the room is awash in sunlight, other times a single searchlight scans the room, and every now and then a candle flickers in the window when “writer brain” pulls an all-nighter. So what does “writer brain” do anyway? And why the big mess?
            First of all, whether they mean to or not, most writers I know keep a constant warehouse of sensory data at their disposal. When I was writing The Leveller, for instance, I found myself paying much more attention to the teen girls around me—what they wore, how they spoke, how they expressed themselves physically—so that my main character, Nixy, would seem more “alive” on the page. I did the same for my setting descriptions. Because the first part of the book takes place in a neighborhood much like my own, I began to look harder at my surroundings, to catalog small details, like a weedy patch of lawn, the gray chill of November, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee in the kitchen, the play of light across a room.
            Not only does the “writer brain” function as a storage facility for sensory details, but it also provides instant access to our emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly. While most of us would rather forget negative emotions and push them to the darkest corners of our brain, most writers recognize the value of keeping them close to the surface, even when uncomfortable. In The Leveller, Nixy experiences a range of emotions: fear, anger, exhilaration, boy angst (!), betrayal, and more. Everything she felt came from my own memories, my own inventory of similar feelings: a breath held too long, a stomach turned upside down, a heart on the sleeve.
            Most of the time “writer brain” works on auto-pilot, constantly observing, analyzing, and archiving like a trustworthy assistant. Just recently I walked down to the railroad tracks with my son to watch 4th of July fireworks over the river of our small town. While we sat there, my senses were on high alert, soaking up the details for a potential scene in a future novel. I watched fireflies twinkle in the long grass while fireworks boomed overhead. I slapped at mosquitoes, smelled the charred wood of a nearby bonfire, and listened to dogs howl in the distance.  I noticed the comfortable silence my son and I shared sitting side by side on the tracks, both of us lost in our own thoughts. I filled my attic with new images, new feelings, new senses. And then (and listen up, because this part’s important), I softly closed the attic door, turned off the lights, and let “writer brain” go to sleep for the day.
            Because life is always better than fiction.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Julia! You can find Julia at:
Julia has generously offered a copy of THE LEVELLER for a giveaway.  To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 25th. I'll announce the winner on July 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an International giveaway.

Here's what's coming up:
On Wednesday I have an interview with debut author Victoria Boecker and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER.

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Amanda Panitch and a giveaway of her YA thriller DAMAGE DONE.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author David Fulk and a giveaway of his MG adventure RAISING RUFUS.

Hope to see you on Wednesday! 



  1. It's amazing what the writer brain will store. I think it's also connected to our dreams, since that is where I get a lot of inspiration for stories from.

  2. This sounds like such a great read! I am currently reading lots of sci-fi and fantasy and this sounds like a perfect addition to my TBR! I followed via Bloglovin' at Kaitlyn Abshire and I shared via Twitter at @kaitlynmanuel. My email is caitlynmanuel(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. Great premise, and I love the cover! I think my writer brain isn't like a room or a location. It's like a computer program that's always running in the background of whatever else I'm doing with the front part of my brain. :)

  4. Sounds like a cool story.
    I think sometimes my writer brain just goes to sleep...

  5. set in part in a virtual world-the book does sound exciting

    tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

  6. Congrats to Julia! The mind is such a fascinating thing. I wish my writer brain would go to sleep sometimes! :)

  7. Congratulations Julia. LEVELLER sounds fascinating! I love the premise. Please throw my name in the hat. I loved Julia's depiction of "writer's brain." It rings so true. I catch myself eavesdropping everywhere I go. And noticing every little twitch of eyebrow or mouth in conversations. Like Christine, I wish my "wb" would go to sleep sometimes. :-)

  8. What an interesting premise for a novel! And I can so identify with your writer brain room. Sometimes everything is all neat and airy other times it looks like a tornado hit it, stuff and papers everywhere.

  9. Love the title. And the concept. Congrats on your debut, Julia.

  10. Love the title. And the concept. Congrats on your debut, Julia.

  11. Julia's writer's brain room reminds me of mine... auto-pilot and all. Thanks for the chance to win The Leveller, it has a great premise.

  12. LOL, I think writer brains have a lot in common with each other!

  13. Congrats on your novel, Julia. I enjoyed your writing brain metaphors, and you gave us a glimpse of the sensory quality of your writing too. Cheers!

  14. Congratulations on your novel, sounds interesting! Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. Congrats on this book. It sounds seriously awesome!

  16. I love the premise for this book! Your attic reminded me of an exercise I did in a writing class where we kept all the sensory details we experienced in a journal. It made me see "real life" in a different way, just like this post!

  17. Ooh, this sounds like a really fun book, reminds me of Tad Williams Otherland Series, which was awesome.

  18. I've been wanting to read this one for months...It just sounds awesome!

  19. What a fantastic idea for a story.


  20. Oh goodness, I need this book like, last week. I love video game books (and movies--like Tron). And yes, the writer's brain is totally a thing--I liked Julia's descipription. (Unfortunately, I haven't seen Inside Out yet, though I want to). Thanks for the giveaway! I tweeted about it: https://twitter.com/adelethelaptop/status/620905076761169920

  21. Totally intrigued by the storyline. I'm sad it's not an audiobook. *pouts* Adding it to my TBR list.

  22. this looks and sounds awesome!!! thanks for sharing :)
    gfc: erin

  23. This sounds amazing! The premise is unique, and I can't wait to read it!

  24. This sounds exciting and I love the cover. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/620995047245217792

  25. Very intriguing concept for a book. Congrats! Thanks for the tips. Please don't enter me in the drawing. I'm am buried in books right now.

  26. Heard great things about this one, can't wait to grab a copy.
    Thanks for a chance to win it! :)

    *following via GFC: Sandra K
    *email: sandra.zg.13 @ gmail.com
    *twitter: https://twitter.com/_Sandra_R_/status/621070077912350724
    *Google+: https://plus.google.com/107598100375357110332/posts/eK6FSv5u229

  27. Appreciate the intro to Julia, Natalie. Thanks so much! Wishing her well with the book. Sounds like an interesting story.

    I heartily agree - my writer brain is always active, whether I'm writing or not. I had to smile about the auto pilot. Yeah, that happens too. I'll pass on the giveaway. Have a good week!

  28. I have this book on my TO READ list on Goodreads.
    I tweeted about this giveaway My Twitter handle is @Amieroger
    My blog is http://amiesbookreviews.wordpress.com

  29. Amen on writer brain. I've always told people I have a set of "story shelves" in my brain, a place I reserve for ideas, interactions, and story-worthy pain. Our brains are amazing machines, eh?

  30. Great post! I look forward to reading this book!

  31. This novel sounds very intriguing! Thanks for the giveaway!
    GFC: Valentina BV
    E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com
    Tweeted: https://twitter.com/ValentinaByVy/status/621602534134837248

  32. Great post! Writer brains are interesting places ... and, according to my hubby, a little scary! Book sounds awesome!

  33. The Leveller sounds like a fantastic read!
    elizabeth(at)bookattict(dot)com (subscribed)
    GFC: BookAttict
    Tweeted: https://twitter.com/BookAttict/status/621815794834522116

  34. I've heard great things about this one! Thanks for the giveaway :D

  35. Thanks for all the kind words about my guest post, and for those of you who read The Leveller, I hope you enjoy it!

  36. This sounds like an awesome storyline, looking forward to reading it:)

  37. what a nice stuff.thanks for share
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  38. What a fun read! In fact, I laughed out loud on more than one occasion while reading. Nixy and I would be best buds. She has a lot of snark and I feel like she's my spirit animal. The main problem I would say with this book is that I don't quite understand the motive of the bad guy, but other than that I enjoyed it. If you're in-between books, I would suggest this one because it's funny, light, and short.

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